Read Your Contract Before Booking a Vacation Rental

As more and more people become aware of the bargain vacations that are possible by booking a luxury vacation rental, vacation rentals have become increasingly more popular. As a result more and more vacation home owners have decided to add their vacation homes to the rental market.

However, many renters fail to read the contract they are required to sign, and make the mistake of signing a surprisingly one-sided contract that absolves the owner or rental agency of all liability. The renter signs away all rights to recourse if the property is inaccessible, when there is a power failure, or when vital appliances fail to work. Obviously, any one of these calamities could ruin a vacation, and renters should not have to buy expensive trip insurance to protect themselves.

Some rental contracts pressure the renter to buy breakage insurance in case something breaks during their stay. Of course all rental contracts state that the tenant is responsible for damage they have done to the property during their stay. However, we have been in business 16 years and have never had to charge a guest’s credit card for damages. That is because we know that some things such as furniture are prone to break from time to time. However, we always give the guest the benefit of the doubt and would not hold the guest responsible for any damage that was not intentional or malicious.

The guest is put in an extremely vulnerable position if the owner or rental agency cannot deliver on their part of the bargain, because often these contracts require that the full amount of the rental be paid at least 31 days in advance. Thus, owners are put in the unfair position of trying to get their money back after having signed away their rights in the vacation rental agreement.

A more reasonable contract would require 50% of the rental in advance and the rest upon arrival, as well as a willingness to give a full refund if the property is not habitable at the time the guest has reserved. Also, a good owner will be willing to hold that deposit and allow the guest to rebook if there is a family emergency that prevents the guests from arriving at the time they have reserved.

If the agreement is too one-sided, you should look elsewhere in booking a vacation rental.
Below are some important things to look for in reading your vacation rental agreement.

1) The contract pushes you toward purchasing trip insurance. If you are renting from a reputable owner or rental agency, you should not have to pay the added cost of trip insurance that will add 7% or more to your cost.
2) The contact pushes you toward purchasing yet another insurance, accidental damage insurance, by requiring a large deposit if you don’t buy their insurance, or by holding you strictly accountable for any damage that might not even be your fault. As indicated above, we have never found it necessary to charge a guest’s credit card for damage because we felt that anything that was broken was not intentional. If it were intentional, the insurance policy would not cover it in any event.
3) The contract absolves the owner or rental agency of responsibility for having the property in habitable and accessible condition with all appliances working. You should avoid at all costs any property if the management refuses to take any responsibility for your not having the vacation that you have paid for.

As a final note, you should remember that the way the vacation rental agreement is written is a good indication of how you will be treated when you arrive at your destination. If you sign a one-sided agreement, you should not expect to be treated fairly if anything goes wrong. It has been our experience that sometimes things do go wrong. What separates good vacation rentals from bad ones is a good maintenance staff and a dedication by management to taking care of problems as soon as they happen.